Brother Lawrence, a French monk, never wrote a book, but the director of his monastic community, Joseph de Beaufort, kept notes from his many conversations with brother Lawrence, together with fifteen letters written by this devoted monk. Today, this collection is known as The Practice of the Presence of God. Over one million brother Lawrence books are in print. There are soft cover, hard back, gift editions, abridged, pocket sized, large print, New English translations,–many other languages– and even ones with art embellishments.
Brother Lawrence’s birth name was Nicholas Herman. He was born in the Lorraine region of France in the early 1600’s. He lived through the brutal Thirty Years War fought between the Catholic and Protestant countries of Europe. This war was long and deadly– reported 8 million casualties. At age 18 he had a strong conversion (a simple sight of a leafless tree) which led him to a relationship with God. He entered a monastic brotherhood in Paris, France where he never advanced beyond being the cook, although he developed the gift of being able to pray unceasingly with God throughout the day–even in his work.
This prayerful practice produced such a spiritual change in brother Lawrence that various persons would come to visit him and try to learn how to practice the presence of God themselves. Joseph de Beaufort was one of the people who saw God’s presence in his life–and he recorded what he observed. Many generations have him to thank!
Brother Lawrence’s observances have inspired Catholics, Protestants, Evangelicals alike. John Wesley, A.W. Tozer have endorsed his work–along with ordinary Christians.
The book presents: Conversations, Letters from Brother Lawrence, –and some have Spiritual Maxims and Life of Brother Lawrence.
Excerpt from Third Conversation:
“...Once he had fully conceived the majesty and supremacy of God in his mind, he found he had no other thought that enters his mind–so that he can perform all his actions for the love of God…..He realized that many people do not advance in the surrendered Christian life because they stick to penances and particular spiritual exercises. At the same time, they neglect the love of God–which is the ultimate goal…..
This leads me to think about Psalm 8. “…how majestic is your name in all the earth!” What other thought can enter my mind if I think about the glory of the heavens and the earth?
Brother Lawrence uses the word “penances” –what word would I use–self punishment?–and then he uses “spiritual exercises”–what word would I use–prayers, meditations?–yes, yes, I do get caught up in the penances and spiritual exercises instead of loving God.
Point taken brother Lawrence–I need to lay off the self punishments and prayer/meditations as a way to advance in Christian life–it is only a motion if I do not love God with pure abandonment.
Perhaps I can do my daily work (imagine being a cook in 1670 in a monastery) with complete surrender –thinking about “how can I do this to please God? In difficulty, know that his love surrounds me–in confidence–that many have gone before me in this and have trusted his power and mercy.
Excerpt, Third Conversation;
“He is also assured that God will give him strength to bear whatever evil He might permit to happen to him. Therefore he fears nothing….a way that always provides sufficient light for our conduct.”
Yes, Yes, God does provide sufficient light. Sufficient. I will ponder this word. He does provide all that I need…that leads me to:
“Great is Thy Faithfulness…thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not, As thou has been, Thou forever wilt be.” —Great is Thy Faithfulness, Thomas Obadiah
Have a conversation this week and record your thoughts. The next generation will thank you.